We have just completed week five of the 2012 Legislative Session. We have been in session now for over a month. During week five we took steps to increase safety for Georgia families and children. One move we made towards a safer Georgia was passing House Bill 711, which is legislation that increases protection for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Supported by the Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault, the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, HB 711 provides confidential communication between victims and their advocates at domestic violence and sexual assault centers. This measure ensures that information released in a victim’s treatment is not used against them in court. HB 711 also makes it easier for victims to testify by exempting domestic abuse cases from spousal privilege. This exemption will ensure that batterers cannot pressure their victims not to testify against them under spousal privilege. Similar legislation to HB 711 has been passed in 43 other states. The Georgia Commission on Family Violence, as well as other advocacy organizations supporting this bill, believes that it will enhance the ability of prosecutors to hold those guilty of domestic violence accountable. Having received passage from the House, HB 711 will now go to the Senate for consideration.
Another Bill introduced this week dealing with victims of violence was House Bill 948. HB 948 is designed to expose hidden cases of abuse. HB 948 makes an effort to do that by expanding Georgia’s child abuse laws to add coaches and members of the clergy to the list of individuals required to report suspected child abuse. Coaches and pastors also often work directly with children, enabling them to recognize signs of abuse. If these individuals do suspect abuse, they have an obligation to take action to stop that abuse and prevent future abuse. Child abuse is a serious problem in our nation, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimating that over 3 million reports of child abuse are made each year in the United States. Hopefully HB 948 will help us combat this serious issue in Georgia. If you suspect a child is being abused, I encourage you to report it to the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD. HB 948 has been assigned to the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, where it will receive further review.
House Bill 879 was also introduced this week, increasing safety for children by ensuring schools are prepared to care for students with diabetes. Under HB 879, schools would be required to have a minimum of two personnel trained in the administration of diabetes treatment. These individuals would be trained to check blood glucose levels, treat hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia, and recognize situations that require emergency assistance. The bill also allows students with diabetes to check and regulate their own blood glucose levels with permission from a parent or guardian. With more than 13,000 children diagnosed with diabetes each year, I believe it is vital that schools be prepared to care for these students. HB 879 has been assigned to the Health and Human Services Committee, which will study the measure and its potential effects.
In addition to the legislation creating a safer environment for our students, we also reviewed legislation this week that would increase safety for student athletes. House Bill 673 establishes a “return to play” policy for student athletes. This policy ensures coaches, students-athletes, and their parents are aware of the risks that athletes face when they continue to play after obtaining a concussion. It also prohibits a student athlete that is suspected of suffering a concussion from playing on the same day, unless he or she is evaluated by a licensed health care provider.
The return to play policy that HB 673 would implement is similar to one practiced in the NFL. This is why several Atlanta Falcons players came to speak to the Health and Human Services Committee in support of the bill and the importance of return to play legislation. It was an honor to hear from these fine athletes, but alarming to hear the statistics on how the lives of student athletes are put in danger when they continue to play with a concussion. From this hearing, we learned that 40 percent of student athletes continue to play after immediately receiving a brain injury. Though the Health and Human Services Committee is still working on HB 673, I hope that the final version of this legislation will reduce this percentage in Georgia and provide a safer environment for student athletes.
As we move forward with the 2012 legislative session, I will work to keep you informed about legislation that increases safety for Georgians. While, HB 711 has been passed by the House and has now made its way to the Senate, HB 948, HB 879, and HB 673 are still being reviewed by House committees. While in committee, these bills will be reviewed and refined to ensure that they accomplish their stated purpose in the best way possible.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at my Capitol Office 404-656-0177 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also leave a comment by going to my Legislative Facebook Page: State Rep. Paulette Braddock (R-19). To sign up for the legislative newsletter go to: www.paulettehouserep.com/contact.html.
If you would like to schedule a visit at the Capitol, please contact Marsha Barnes at 404-656-0177.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.